World Trouble Spots- An Objective View of the Gap Between Those Who Have Made It and Those Left Behind



Editor’s Note:  Although published 5 years ago, this topic seems ever more pertinent today with pandemic and social unrest issues at the fore.  It is republished here for your  renewed consideration

Ken Larson 


“MIND THE GAP” by Professor Jay Ogilvy

“The growing divide between those who have made it and those who are being left behind is happening globally, in each of the great civilizations, not just Islam.

The issue of the comparative advantages or disadvantages of different cultures is complicated and getting more so because with modernity and globalization, our lives are getting more complicated. We are all in each other’s faces today in a way that was simply not the case in earlier centuries.

Whether through travel or telecommunications or increasingly ubiquitous and inexpensive media, each and every one of us is more aware of the cultural other than in times past.”


“The Charlie Hebdo attack and its aftermath in the streets and in the press tempt one to dust off Samuel Huntington‘s 1996 book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Despite the criticisms he provoked with that book and his earlier 1993 article in Foreign Affairs, recent events would seem to be proving him prescient.

Or was he?

While I am not about to deny the importance of religion and culture as drivers of geopolitical dynamics, I will argue that, more important than the clashes among the great civilizations, there is a clash within each of the great civilizations. This is the clash between those who have “made it” (in a sense yet to be defined) and those who have been “left behind” — a phrase that is rich with ironic resonance.

Before I make my argument, I warn that the point I’m trying to make is fairly subtle. So, in the interest of clarity, let me lay out what I’m not saying before I make that point. I am not saying that Islam as a whole is somehow retrograde. I am not agreeing with author Sam Harris’ October 2014 remark on “Real Time with Bill Maher” that “Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas.”

Nor am I saying that all religions are somehow equal, or that culture is unimportant. The essays in the book Culture Matters, which Huntington helped edit, argue that different cultures have different comparative advantages when it comes to economic competitiveness.

These essays build on the foundation laid down by Max Weber’s 1905 work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. It is only the “sulfuric odor of race,” as Harvard historian David Landes writes on the first page of the first essay in Culture Matters, that has kept scholars from exploring the under-researched linkages between culture and economic performance.

Making It in the Modern World

In the modern world, the development of the individual human, which is tied in part to culture, has become more and more important. If you think of a single human life as a kind of footrace — as if the developmental path from infancy to maturity were spanning a certain distance — then progress over the last several millennia has moved out the goal posts of maturity. It simply takes longer to learn the skills it takes to “make it” as an adult.

Surely there were skills our Stone Age ancestors had to acquire that we moderns lack, but they did not have to file income taxes or shop for insurance. Postmodern thinkers have critiqued the idea of progress and perhaps we do need a concept that is forgivingly pluralistic. Still, there have been indisputable improvements in many basic measures of human progress. This is borne out by improved demographic statistics such as birth weight, height and longevity, as well as declining poverty and illiteracy. To put it very simply, we humans have come a long way.

But these historic achievements have come at a price. It is not simple for individuals to master this elaborate structure we call modern civilization with its buildings and institutions and culture and history and science and law.

A child can’t do it. Babies born into this world are biologically very similar to babies born 10,000 years ago; biological evolution is simply too slow and cannot equip us to manage this structure. And childhood has gotten ever longer. “Neoteny” is the technical term for the prolongation of the period during which an offspring remains dependent on its parent.

In some species, such as fish or spiders, newborns can fend for themselves immediately. In other species — ducks, deer, dogs and cats — the young remain dependent on their mothers for a period of weeks. In humans, the period of dependency extends for years. And as the generations and centuries pass, especially recently, that period of dependency keeps getting longer.

As French historian Philippe Aries informed us in Centuries of Childhood, “in medieval society, the idea of childhood did not exist.” Prior to modernity, young people were adults in miniature, trying to fit in wherever they could. But then childhood got invented. Child labor laws kept children out of the factories and truancy laws kept them in public schools.

For a recent example of the statutory extension of childhood known as neoteny, consider U.S. President Barack Obama’s announcement that he intends to make community college available for free to any high school graduate, thus extending studenthood by two years.

The care and feeding and training of your average human cub have become far greater than the single season that bear cubs require. And it seems to be getting ever longer as more 20-somethings and even 30-somethings find it cheaper to live with mom and dad, whether or not they are enrolled in school or college.

The curriculum required to flourish as an adult seems to be getting ever longer, the goal posts of meaningful maturity ever further away from the “starting line,” which has not moved. Our biology has not changed at anywhere near the rate of our history. And this growing gap between infancy and modern maturity is true for every civilization, not just Islamic civilization.

The picture gets complicated, though, because the vexed history of the relationships among the world’s great civilizations leaves little doubt about different levels of development along any number of different scales of achievement. Christian democracies have outperformed the economies and cultures of the rest of the world. Is this an accident? Or is there something in the cultural software of the West that renders it better able to serve the needs of its people than does the cultural software called Islam?

Those Left Behind

Clearly there is a feeling among many in the Islamic world that they, as a civilization, have been “left behind” by history. Consider this passage from Snow, the novel by Nobel Prize-winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk:

“We’re poor and insignificant,” said Fazul, with a strange fury in his voice. “Our wretched lives have no place in human history. One day all of us living now in Kars will be dead and gone. No one will remember us; no one will care what happened to us. We’ll spend the rest of our days arguing about what sort of scarf women should wrap around their heads, and no one will care in the slightest because we’re eaten up by our own petty, idiotic quarrels. When I see so many people around me leading such stupid lives and then vanishing without a trace, an anger runs through me…”

Earlier I mentioned the ironic resonance of this phrase, “left behind.” I think of two other recent uses: first, the education reform legislation in the United States known as the No Child Left Behind Act; the second, the best-selling series of 13 novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins in which true believers are taken up by the Rapture while the sinners are “left behind.” In both of these uses, it is clearly a bad thing to be left behind.

Culture is something we can change in response to circumstances rather than waiting, as other animals must, for our genes to evolve under the pressures of natural selection. As a result, though we are still basically the same animals that we were when we invented agriculture at the end of the ice age, our societies have evolved faster and faster and will continue to do so at an ever-increasing rate in the 21st century.

And because the fundamental dynamics of this divide are rooted in the mismatch between the pace of change of biological evolution on the one hand (very slow) and historical or technological change on the other (ever faster), it is hard to see how this gap can be closed. We don’t want to stop progress, and yet the more progress we make, the further out the goal posts of modern maturity recede and the more significant culture becomes.

There is a link between the “left behind” phenomenon and the rise of the ultra-right in Europe. As the number of unemployed, disaffected, hopeless youth grows, so also does the appeal of extremist rhetoric — to both sides. On the Muslim side, more talk from the Islamic State about slaying the infidels. On the ultra-right, more talk about Islamic extremists. Like a crowded restaurant, the louder the voices get, the louder the voices get.

I use this expression, those who have “made it,” because the gap in question is not simply between the rich and the poor. Accomplished intellectuals such as Pamuk feel it as well. The writer Pankaj Mishra, born in Uttar Pradesh, India, in 1969, is another rising star from the East who writes about the dilemma of Asian intellectuals, the Hobson’s choice they face between recoiling into the embrace of their ancient cultures or adopting Western ways precisely to gain the strength to resist the West.

This is their paradox: Either accept the Trojan horse of Western culture to master its “secrets” — technology, organization, bureaucracy and the power that accrues to a nation-state — or accept the role of underpaid extras in a movie, a very partial “universal” history, that stars the West. ”

About the Author:

“Jay Ogilvy joined Stratfor’s editorial board in January 2015. In 1979, he left a post as a professor of philosophy at Yale to join SRI, the former Stanford Research Institute, as director of research. Dr. Ogilvy co-founded the Global Business Network of scenario planners in 1987. He is the former dean and chief academic officer of San Francisco’s Presidio Graduate School. Dr. Ogilvy has published nine books, including Many Dimensional Man, Creating Better Futures and Living Without a Goal.”

Legally Speaking America Isn’t Fighting Any Wars




“There’s no draft — and only one percent of the U.S. population is in the military.

Most of these missions are classified.  U.S. citizens and lawmakers should shake off fears of appearing unpatriotic to challenge the government’s unchecked, unilateral and covert military activities abroad.

The government isn’t levying special taxes or issuing bonds to pay for the fighting. This “war” — drone strikes, Special Forces deployments, air strikes and aircraft carrier deployments — is happening with little public scrutiny.

More than 8,000 U.S. soldiers are fighting in Afghanistan right now. Military advisers are overseeing the war against the Islamic State and the battle to retake Mosul, backed up by American military equipment. Drones launch from bases in Africa and the Middle East to conduct targeted killings against high value targets from Djibouti to Pakistan. U.S. Special Operations Forces operate across the globe in various capacities.

This week on War College, we sit down with Rosa Brooks to figure out how America barreled head long into a permanent war without defining the terms or thinking about the consequences. Brooks is a former U.S. State Department official and the author of the book How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales From the Pentagon.

Brooks argues that U.S. citizens and lawmakers should shake off fears of appearing unpatriotic to challenge the government’s unchecked, unilateral and covert military activities abroad. If that doesn’t happen soon, she says, the United States may have to pay for the dangerous example it’s setting for Russia and China.”


Will There Ever Be a Right Time to Leave Afghanistan?



afganistan war logic cartoon


“After providing nearly $70 billion in security assistance, Washington is still looking at an Afghanistan that cannot sustain itself or defend itself.

Its national economy is so weak that it depends on the international community to pay for its army and police, to the tune of $5 billion per year through 2020.

On July 25, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan released its latest quarterly report on civilian casualties from the war. Afghanistan was already one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a civilian, but the findings of the investigation were even worse than observers and U.S. officials expected: between January 1, 2016 to June of this year, the fighting killed 1,601 civilians and injured another 3,565.

“This represents an increase of four percent in the total number of casualties compared to the first six months of 2015,” the head of the U.N. mission said, “and is the highest half-year total since 2009.”

The dismal figures from the U.N. are just the most recent in a stack of reports from the U.N. Secretary General and the U.S.government that describe an extremely dire security situation in the country, nearly 15 years since the U.S. and its NATO allies embarked on a mission that has dragged on for over a decade. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s own assessment of the war to the Security Council is a good summation of what many Americans and Europeans have long suspected: insurgent violence is up, the Afghan government is still riven by factional disputes and an exceedingly slow process of appointing and confirming ministers, the Afghan army and police force is getting beaten up in the field, and chunks of rural Afghanistan are either administered or influenced by anti-government elements.

“In the first four months of 2016,” Ban wrote, “reports indicated rising casualties among the security forces. The sustainability of the forces remains a challenge in the light of high attrition rates. Even though recruitment was on target, re-enlistment rates remained particularly low and needed to be increased to compensate for other losses.”

The result of this attrition? A 5 percent decrease in the amount of territory the Afghan government controls, from 70.5 percent to 65.6 percent. Over one-third of the country’s districts are either under insurgent control or “at risk” of being captured or challenged by the Taliban.

The Obama administration has taken these statistics seriously, responding to the situation as they have done throughout the past seven-and-one-half years: escalating the amount of force the U.S.military is allowed to use and slowing the scheduled withdrawal ofU.S. troops. For all of the GOP’s complaints about President Obama handcuffing of the military and his resistance to providing the generals running the war with more resources, money, firepower, and support, the fact is that Obama has been quite deferential to military leaders and the Pentagon. His original plan to withdraw all U.S. trainers and advisers from Afghanistan by the end of 2016 has been delayed repeatedly — first in March 2015, when Obama decided to provide President Ashraf Ghani with the full force of 9,800 troops through 2015 and again in October, when he extended the same force level through most of 2016.

The administration seems muddled about how to ensure that U.S.gains in Afghanistan are kept and built upon. Recognizing that Afghan security forces are struggling against the Taliban and continuing to take unsustainable casualties, Washington again has decided that being more aggressive is the right answer. Rather than stick with its goal of withdrawing to 5,500 U.S. troops into the next administration, the White House will now keep 8,400into next year. U.S. pilots have been granted more authority to not only defend Afghan units in the field who are attacked, but aid those same forces when they engage in offensive operations against the Taliban. In some cases, American advisers will also be permitted to embed with their Afghan counterparts during those operations.

As in the U.S. troop surge from 2010-12, putting more American boots on the ground will produce positive results on the battlefield in the short-term. No fighting force in the world can compete with the U.S. soldier, so more of them will naturally help the Afghan security forces reclaim districts in remote areas. But as with the surge, security and stability in Afghanistan will likely deteriorate as soon as those U.S. assets and authorities are taken away. This assessment is borne out by the facts: less than four years after U.S. surge forces were withdrawn, the Taliban hold more territory than they have since the war began in October 2001.

According to U.K. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon, “This is the wrong time to walk away from Afghanistan.” But this begs the question: will there ever be a right time to leave Afghanistan? And if the answer is no, is maintaining thousands of troops on the ground and pumping another $70 billion into Afghanistan’s army the best way to keep the U.S. and Europe safe from another terrorist attack? Or are there other ways to do the same thing, but without a multi-decade military commitment?

One hopes that the next President will ask these important questions before continuing with the status quo.”



Iraq And The Cost of Geopolitical Hubris


Hubris Selling Iraq War


“These leaders created a false case for invading Iraq and then utterly mismanaged the occupation.

It seems a long time ago, and in a world far, far away, that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, enthusiastically supported by Tony Blair, went to war with Iraq.

Yet now a long and long-overdue British report into Britain’s role in that war, the report of the official and independent Iraq Inquiry Committee led by John Chilcot, has been published, reopening wounds and forcing Mr. Blair back into the limelight to defend why, despite so much evidence and advice against joining in the Bush administration’s misguided enthusiasm for invading Iraq, he chose as prime minister to throw his full support behind America.

Mr. Blair’s message to Mr. Bush at the time — “I will be with you, whatever” — leaps out painfully from the report’s 2.6 million words, proclaiming a blind loyalty that the Iraq war only helped erode, and that seems especially archaic now that Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has raised questions about its role in NATO and its place as America’s closest European ally.

Mr. Blair’s critics are no doubt disappointed that in response to theChilcot report, he has continued to defend his actions. “I believe we made the right decision and the world is better and safer as a result of it,” he said, which seems willfully blind to the current chaos in Iraq and beyond. But if he would not confess that he erred in his decision, he did acknowledge, “There’s not a single day that goes by that I don’t think about it.”

His plea for understanding the context in which he made his decision to stand with the United States, the confusion and the need for action after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, seems tragically inadequate and self-serving with so many lives lost — more than 200 Britons, at least 4,500 Americans and more than 150,000 Iraqis, most of them civilians — and so much treasure spent prosecuting a war that was built on falsehoods.

While there have been no consequences for Mr. Blair himself, the political judgment of the British has been decisive, rendering the Iraq war as a defining blot on Mr. Blair’s 10 years in office.

The report should not be read as an indictment only of Mr. Blair’s foolish decision. Though the United States was not the subject of the inquiry, it was the Bush administration that falsely sold and launched the invasion. There has been no comparable, comprehensive official inquiry in Washington by independent investigators into the origin and politics of the fateful decision to go to war. Years have passed, but the public, in the United States and abroad, still yearns for the full truth and deserves an American investigation on the scale of the 9/11 Commission.

Given the partisan divide in Washington, however, it is hard to believe a similar exercise would produce anything even remotely dispassionate or honest. And yet it is the United States, far more than Britain, that needs to understand how national policy can be hijacked by lies and ideology so that there’s less chance it will happen again.”


Global Military Spending Grows For First Time Since 2011


World Defense Spending in Billions


“Global military expenditures topped $1.6 trillion in 2015, an increase of about 1 percent from the previous year, according to a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

That represents the first increase in global military spending since 2011, with growth coming from Asia and Oceania, Central and Eastern Europe, and a few key Gulf powers, as well a slower defense drawdown in the US than in previous years.

SIPRI’s military expenditure report is released annually to track overall defense spending on a global scale. (To coincide with the release of the report, SIPRI is hosting an event on Tuesday at the Washington, DC-based Stimson Center, where the author of this piece will be a panelist.)

The group defines “military expenditures” as current and capital spending from each nation’s armed forces, including peacekeeping forces; defense ministries and other government agencies that deal with defense projects; paramilitary forces, when judged to be trained and equipped for military operations, and military space activities.

The data is based on open sources, including a questionnaire that is sent out annually to governments; as a result, some totals, most notably China’s, are estimates rather than concrete figures.

Unsurprisingly, the US remains the top military spender at $596 billion, nearly tripling China’s estimated total of $215 billion. However, the US did drop by 2.4 percent from 2014 figures.

Saudi Arabia ($87.2 billion) moved past Russia ($66.4 billion) for the third spot, a move the researches attribute to the falling cost of the Rubble. Similarly, the drop in value of the euro let the United Kingdom ($55.5 billion) flip spots with France ($50.9 billion) at fifth overall and seventh overall, respectively.

The report highlights the impact of falling oil prices on defense spending, noting that it led to “an abrupt reduction in military spending” in countries such as Angola, Chad, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, Oman, South Sudan and Venezuela. Oil revenue-dependent giants like Russia and Saudi Arabia bucked that trend in 2016, but the SIPRI authors expect both nations spending to drop in 2016.

Regionally, spending in Asia and Oceania rose 5.4 percent, at an estimated $438 billion — 49 percent of which comes from China. China’s spending more than quadrupled that of India, the region’s second-largest military investor, and it continues a trend of major growth in military spending in the region, which has increased by 64 percent since 2006.

European military spending increased 1.7 percent in 2015 to $328 billion, driven largely by Eastern Europe, which includes Russia and those nations perturbed by Russia’s invasion of Ukrainian territory in 2014. In fact, Eastern European spending increased by 90 percent from 2006.

Military spending from Latin America and the Caribbean actually dropped by 2.9 percent in 2015, to $67.0 billion, while African expenditures fell by 5.3 percent in 2015, with an estimated $37.0 billion. The researchers decided not to publish a regional estimate for the Middle East, as “data for 2015 is unavailable for several countries.”


Tor Says Feds Paid Carnegie Mellon $1M to Help Unmask Users


Image: Lifehacker.com


“The Tor Project issued a statement directly accusing Carnegie Mellon of providing its Tor-breaking research in secret to the FBI in exchange for a payment of “at least $1 million.”

Tor’s statement all but confirms that Carnegie Mellon’s attack was used in the late 2014 law enforcement operation known as Operation Onymous, carried out by the FBI and Europol.

That dark web purge took down dozens of Tor hidden services, including several of the most popular Tor-based black markets for drugs including the Silk Road 2, and led to at least 17 arrests. Tor, for its part, has made efforts to subsequently block the attack, which it says it first detected in July of 2014.

When WIRED contacted Carnegie Mellon, it didn’t deny the Tor Project’s accusations, but pointed to a lack of evidence. “I’d like to see the substantiation for their claim,” said Ed Desautels, a staffer in the public relations department of the university’s Software Engineering Institute. “I’m not aware of any payment,” he added, declining to comment further.

Tor’s Dingledine responded to that call for evidence by telling WIRED that it identified Carnegie Mellon as the origin of the attack by pinpointing servers running on Tor’s network that were used in the de-anonymization technique. When it asked Carnegie Mellon if the servers were being run by its researchers—a suspicion based on the canceled Black Hat conference presentation—the anomalous servers disappeared from the network and the university offered no response. The $1 million payment, Dingledine says, was revealed to Tor by “friends in the security community.”
WIRED has also reached out to the FBI, which didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. But an unnamed FBI spokesperson tells Ars Technica that “the allegation that we paid [Carnegie Mellon University] $1 million to hack into Tor is inaccurate,” though the FBI spokesperson declined to say whether the exact amount of the payment was incorrect or the Tor Project’s basic statement that the FBI purchased and used Carnegie Mellon’s Tor-breaking research.1

Tor’s accusations against Carnegie Mellon were triggered Wednesday morning by a report from Vice’s Motherboard news site, which found a reference in legal documents obtained by the defense attorneys of alleged Silk Road 2 drug dealer Brian Richard Farrell. According to the documents, prosecutors revealed to Farrell’s lawyers that the technique used to identify him was “based on information obtained by a ‘university-based research institute’ that operated its own computers on the anonymous network used by Silk Road 2.0.”

In his statement, Tor’s Dingledine excoriates Carnegie Mellon for violating its academic ethics to help invade the privacy of Tor’s users.

“This attack…sets a troubling precedent: Civil liberties are under attack if law enforcement believes it can circumvent the rules of evidence by outsourcing police work to universities. If academia uses ‘research’ as a stalking horse for privacy invasion, the entire enterprise of security research will fall into disrepute,” Dingledine writes. “We teach law enforcement agents that they can use Tor to do their investigations ethically, and we support such use of Tor–but the mere veneer of a law enforcement investigation cannot justify wholesale invasion of people’s privacy, and certainly cannot give it the color of ‘legitimate research.’”

“Whatever academic security research should be in the 21st century,” he concludes, “it certainly does not include ‘experiments’ for pay that indiscriminately endanger strangers without their knowledge or consent.”


Can America Win A War? ANSWER: “He Who Ignores History Is Doomed to Repeat It”


20150501cover600-x-800NOTE:  This piece is the best read we have seen in recent years on the issue of ongoing US involvement in the Middle East and what ancient history and our own experience should tell us about such ventures.  The full article is well worth the time to carefully analyze and consider. Below is an extract and a link to the full text.


“The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, nine years after the birth of Christ, in what is now northwestern Germany. It has been called “the battle that changed the course of history,” because it marked forever the limits of the Roman Empire.

Nearly 2,000 years later, America crossed its own Rhine of sorts, in Vietnam. Like the Romans, the U.S. military seemed virtually unbeatable, until it ventured into Southeast Asia.

While the top tiers of Osama bin Laden’s group were decimated—and the leader himself eliminated in 2011—others took their places while the organization metastasized. Al-Qaeda and its ISIS rivals now compete for followers from Libya to Afghanistan. This cannot be considered a “win.”

Talk to the men and women who have to fight these wars, and they all say the same thing: We can keep killing people, but to what end? In this forever war, the best the United States can hope for is the effective management of threats.

“These are problems that the people in the region are going to have to figure out how to solve,” says Andrew Bacevich.[a former Army colonel and Vietnam veteran who lost a son in Iraq] “And they’re not going to do it quickly; they’re not going to do it easily; they are probably not going to do it without considerable bloodshed. But at the end of the day, they will have a better chance of solving their own problems than we will have a chance of imposing a solution on them.”

Such was the lesson Rome eventually learned from its defeat in the Teutoburg Forest. Rome’s legions took several more beatings east of the Rhine before their leaders decided the best way to reduce the threat of the Germanic tribes was to leave them to themselves. As the Roman historian Tacitus wrote, according to an analysis by the Dutch scholar Jona Lendering: “The Germanic tribes, left alone, would become divided again and cease to be dangerous.”

That might well be the hard lesson America has to learn.”


CIA Has Tried for Years to Break Into Apple Gear



“The CIA has been working with security researchers to hack into Apple’s technology since long before we all carried Apple devices around in our pockets.

That’s according to a new report from The Intercept, based on documents supplied by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. The story lays out in detail how, for nearly a decade now, the CIA has been working on ways to penetrate Apple’s iPhones and iPads, in order to collect data on Apple customers, which Apple CEO Tim Cook has publicly and repeatedly vowed to protect.

According to the report, researchers have been targeting Apple’s security keys, which encrypt user data, as well as working on their own version of Xcode, Apple’s software development tool, which would give the intelligence community access to any apps developed using the modified tool—access which Apple does not otherwise allow. One document cited in the report notes that this tool could “force all iOS applications to send embedded data to a listening post.” These and other findings have been presented annually at the CIA’s Trusted Computing Base Jamboree conference.

The goal of this research, according to the documents, was to make the CIA less dependent on “a very small number of security flaws, many of which are public, which Apple eventually patches.” The new methods researchers have been pursuing were designed to go undetected. And yet, The Intercept reports that none of the documents indicate whether or not these methods have been proven to work.

If successful, however, the implications of such breaches would be immense, because, as Matthew Green, a cryptography expert at Johns Hopkins University’s Information Security Institute told The Intercept, “Every other manufacturer looks to Apple. If the CIA can undermine Apple’s systems, it’s likely they’ll be able to deploy the same capabilities against everyone else.”

This report comes less than a year after Apple launched a new website, detailing the lengths the company goes to to protect user data. In an open letter, CEO Tim Cook wrote that Apple had never allowed government agencies access to a “backdoor” to its products and services. “And we never will,” he added. The site also noted that on iOS 8, all user data is protected by users’ own passwords, which Apple cannot bypass. These default encryption settings earned high praise from privacy advocates but spurred widespread criticism from government officials, including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director James Comey, who said such protections could cripple law enforcement investigations.

According to one American Civil Liberties Union technologist quoted in The Intercept, these changes have only served to fuel the intelligence community’s desire to seek out vulnerabilities in Apple’s encryption technology. It’s an effort that is well funded, and not limited to Apple’s products. According to one classified budget, a 2012 project designed to infiltrate “strong commercial data security systems” received $35 million in funding.

The projects are part of an overarching shift at the CIA toward cyberespionage. Just last week, CIA director John Brennan issued a memo stating that digital technology must be “at the very center of all our mission endeavors.” Brennan’s memo seemed to suggest that this shift was a reaction to intelligence officers’ dwindling involvement in armed conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Now they have to go back to old-school spying, recruiting agents, getting people to tell you secrets in a peaceful environment,” he wrote. And yet, the Agency’s heightened interest in infiltrating American companies on American soil seems to tell a different story.

It’s a strategy that Green believes could not only threaten American privacy, but also the US economy. “US tech companies have already suffered overseas due to foreign concerns about our products’ security,” he told The Intercept. “The last thing any of us need is for the US government to actively undermine our own technology industry.”


Our Navy Is Big Enough


Diseno-art.com“THE NEW YORK TIMES”

“The $3.3 billion Zumwalt destroyer uses all-electric propulsion, employs stealth features, carries a huge arsenal of guided missiles, and mounts advanced cannons that can hit targets 63 miles away.

Most likely it will never be tested in battle, because no other nation is even attempting to build a warship like the Zumwalt, which symbolizes the gigantic advantage the United States Navy enjoys.

The Pentagon’s new budget request asks that the Navy receive a large increase: $161 billion for the 2016 fiscal year, versus $149 billion in the current fiscal year. Last month, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told the House Appropriations Committee that the Navy must get bigger — increasing to a total of at least 300 ships, versus the current 275.

Both houses of Congress are now under Republican control, with the Senate Armed Services Committee headed by John McCain, a Navy veteran. Desire for a larger, more expensive Navy has been a Republican political theme since the Reagan presidency. The Republican presidential aspirant Jeb Bush, who favors higher military spending, has called Navy budget restrictions “really severe.” Another potential Republican White House candidate, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, told the American Enterprise Institute in October that if cuts were made to the defense budget, “America will not have a global Navy anymore.”

Yet no naval expansion is needed. The Navy has 10 nuclear-powered supercarriers — 10 more than the rest of the world. No other nation is even contemplating anything like the advanced nuclear supercarriers that the United States has under construction. China possesses one outdated, conventionally powered carrier, and is believed to be building two other carriers, neither of which is a nuclear supercarrier capable of contesting the “blue water,” or deep open oceans, where the United States Navy dominates. In aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, naval aviation, surface firepower, assault ships, missiles and logistics, the United States Navy is more powerful than all other navies of the world combined.

Some commentators engage in fearmongering regarding China’s carriers, new submarines and its anti-ship ballistic missile. But the carriers are modest compared with America’s, the submarines far less capable than ours. And there’s no evidence that its anti-ship missile has had a realistic test.

China’s neighbors are unhappy that the growing Chinese Navy may back Beijing’s claims regarding the South China Sea. But Chinese naval expansion does not pose any direct threat to the national security of the United States, or to its dominance of the oceans. For the United States to think there is something sinister in China’s projecting power in its own nearby waters would be like China’s asserting there were something sinister in the fact that the United States Fourth Fleet operates in the Caribbean. South China Sea jurisdictional disputes are an issue to be resolved by negotiation. Making the United States Navy even more powerful won’t matter to such clashes.

For many centuries, naval rivalry was a central aspect of great-power relations. Yet for more than half a century there has been no great-power naval rivalry — because the United States Navy rules. The last major sea battle was at Okinawa, in 1945. Piracy still occurs, but in the main, global trade has flowered because sea lanes are open and commercial vessels ply the oceans unthreatened by warships. Free commerce upon the oceans brings nearly all nations, including developing nations, higher living standards and less poverty.

Since Navy operations take place far from home, Americans may be unaware of their country’s nautical strength and of the progressive role the Navy plays in world affairs. Many Americans have never seen an active-duty United States warship; ships can’t march in Fourth of July parades or fly over football games. But arguably, naval hegemony is among the greatest American achievements, and one that makes all nations better off. That hegemony is secured by such a dramatic margin that no naval buildup is needed.”



America vs. China, Japan & Italy in the US Military’s Robot Super Competition


defense-large                                                               Image: Ben Watson – DARPA


“The cost of the Robotics Challenge to the taxpayer is $95 million. DARPA will hand out a total of $3.5 million in prizes at the end of the competition.

The Pentagon’s coming Robotics Grand Challenge just got more interesting as 14 additional teams from labs around the world will join the 11 teams already cleared to participate in the summer’s robot competition in Pomona, California.

The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency, or DARPA, announced the new teams include two from Germany, six from Japan, one from Italy, two from South Korea, one from Hong Kong and one from China.

That diversity is good news as it allows a wider variety of robot frames and platforms to compete against one another. Some of the more visually striking new entries include the Aero entry from Japan, which bares no small resemblance to the menacing Gort from the 1951 science fiction classic “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, the sleek and tastefully appointed WALKMAN out of Italy (natch), and the simian CHIMP from Team Tartan Rescue based in Pittsburg (seen in the video below.)

But the new comer that many will be watching is China’s Team Intelligent Pioneer from the Hefei Institutes of Physical Science. Long associated with an abundance of inexpensive manual labor, China is a fast-rising player in the international robotics industry where insiders recently told Reuters that robotics firms were “rising up like mushrooms.”

Some seven teams will be using a modified version of the Boston Dynamics Atlas robot but “it’s each team’s unique software, user interface, and strategy that will distinguish them and push the technology forward,” program manager Gil Pratt said in a statement.

The course will consist of eight tasks like climbing rubble, entering controlled areas and ascending stairs, which the robot must complete in less than one hour, on battery and in an environment with extremely limited electronic communication. The robots will have to figure out how perform the tasks with almost no human guidance or steering.

The challenge was inspired by the difficulties that emergency crews faced in response to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in Japan in 2011. It presented, in many ways, a worst-case scenario where massive infrastructure damage and destroyed communications made working on the plant extremely difficult. Despite dangerously high levels of radiation, emergency teams of humans had to access parts of the plant and continue to operate equipment because no robotic system was up to the task.

The cost of the Robotics Challenge to the taxpayer is $95 million. DARPA will hand out a total of $3.5 million in prizes at the end of the competition.”